THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Cassandra Pullman, 20, United Kingdom

The Pixel Project is proud to present our fourth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2017. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2017 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. This campaign was created to provide:

  • VAW survivors a platform to share their stories and solutions/ideas on how they rebuilt their lives and healed/are healing.
  • Girls and women currently experiencing or who have survived VAW ideas, hope, and inspiration to escape the violence and know that there is light at the tunnel and there is help out there.

Our 21st Survivor Stories interview is with Cassandra Pullman from the United Kingdom.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Child Sexual Abuse survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Cassandra Pullman and I am a survivor. I am also a proud care leaver from England but I now currently live in Scotland. I am 20 years old and I am currently a college student, hoping to go into Psychology and Social Work. I really want to do talks to speak out and help others who have been abused in any way. I am currently in the starting stages of writing a book on my abuse and about my recovery. My hobbies/interests are reading crime fiction and survivor stories. I enjoy helping others out with problems such as mental health and abuse. I enjoy country walks and camping outdoors in the forest and surrounding areas.

 

cassandra-pullman1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was severely sexually, physically and mentally abused and neglected by my parents as a child. My parents were very aggressive and violent towards me.

My first memory of the abuse was after my first birthday when my father first sexually assaulted me and when my mother first beat me up. Between the ages of 1 and 5 my father would rape me (with his hands and objects) whenever he could and my mother would stand by and encourage him. When I was 6 my father raped me (with his genitals) and continued to do so until I was 12. The reason he stopped was because my mother told him I had started my period. My mother was equally as evil, causing physical/mental harm and neglect throughout my life for as long as I can remember.

They never cared nor did they ever love me. I was an unloved child, who was like discarded trash that never quite made it to the bin. They would do unspeakable things to me that would haunt me for most of my childhood. I would sometimes wear makeup to school to hide the bruises. I also used to run away and self-harm. I believed that happiness was a day without pain and torture.

 

2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?

I escaped first by running away from my parents and then from the school. When that didn’t work I would self-harm. At first it was for myself but then I realised the school was finally taking me seriously.

I told my school about the abuse I suffered at home but never in full detail. Eventually social services got involved – when I was 15 I finally had the courage to tell social services what was happening at home but even then I was scared to tell them everything and to this day I still am.

After I showed and proved there was significant risk I was able to place myself in care at the age of 13 with the aid of my wonderful social worker and solicitor.

 

3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?

I underwent a variety of therapies as a child: I had CBT from CAMHS aged 11-12 and then at 16. What helped was learning about other survivors, hearing their stories and igniting myself to do the same. I learned so much about myself which I can put into practice to aid my recovery.

Helplines were also an amazing resource because if I ever needed someone I would pick one at random and call to talk about my past, present and the future.

Truth be told, there is no one who knows the full story of my childhood. So one aspect that will help heal and rebuild my life is when I finish writing my book and it is published. Then I can tell every single detail of my story.

With my recovery, I am now able to live the life that I want to have, I am able to change my life, change my fate and change my story. I can do what I want with my life without living in fear of my horrendous past. I can now move on and forward and conquer anything.

 

4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?

Don’t blame yourself – The abuse you suffered was never your fault, not now and not ever. Whatever the reasons for the violence or abuse, it will never be justified.

I would also suggest that you speak out to get help, no matter who your abuser is or what the circumstances are; find people, contact helplines and speak to the police.

Finally, it’s important to share your experiences with someone you trust who will be there for you, listen and give you the right support. It can be daunting and it will be scary but if you keep it bottled up you will eventually explode and that explosion will not just be deadly for you but for others around you. Talking about what has happened to you can make an enormous difference and can feel like a great weight has been lifted from you.

 

5. How do you think we can end violence against women?

We can end violence against women by destroying the stigma and the taboo that surrounds it and also by stopping victim shaming. Education is key – teaching, telling, speaking, blogging, writing, shouting and reading are the best ways to show and explain what violence and abuse is and what we can all do to eradicate it.

Society needs to stop ignoring this epidemic and and to take action including:

  • Providing an advocate for victims who have not found their voice.
  • Having localised support in place as well as significant national and international resources will help a great deal.
  • Providing more helplines, posters on public transport and people doing talks in educational families.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because:

  • They help women who have suffered from different types of abuse from all over the world and I too want to end violence.
  • They provide a wealth of information about violence against women to learn, engage and share with others.
  • They help and show others that victims are not alone and that one day not only will they be a survivor but also a warrior.
  • They have “The Men’s Room” which engages with men to help end the violence towards women. It truly shows there is no sexism and allows men to be involved.

I also what to say thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity to share my story through the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project. Not only will Survivor Stories engage and help others, it gives survivors an immensely powerful voice. This will change and empower other women all around the world.